By Robert Preidt
In a genetic investigation of 419 SIDS cases, Mayo Clinic researchers found that genetic mutations associated with heart disease accounted for about 5 percent.
Previous studies have suggested that such mutations could cause up to 20 percent of SIDS deaths.
The new study was published March 12 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The findings open new areas of study into the causes of SIDS and may help reduce unnecessary genetic testing of surviving family members, according to the researchers.
"Through this research, we now know that the vast majority of SIDS cases do not stem from genetic heart diseases," study co-senior author Dr. Michael Ackerman said in a Mayo Clinic news release.
Ackerman is director of the Long QT Syndrome/Genetic Heart Rhythm Clinic and the Sudden Death Genomics Laboratory at the Minnesota clinic.
"We now are turning our attention to the genes implicated in other organ systems, like the brain, to determine their potential contribution. In addition, we are now exploring other genetic contributions to SIDS, because it is now abundantly clear that most SIDS cases are not due to a single genetic cause," he explained.
SIDS is the sudden, unexplained death of a baby under age 1. It occurs in 0.5 of 1,000 live births in the United States, accounting for up to 80 percent of all unexpected infant deaths. The risk is greatest between 2 and 4 months of age.